Synod of New York and Philadelphia. Minutes [manuscript], May 26 and May 28, 1787.
PHS Call number: VF BX 8951 .A3 1758-1788
See especially pages 434, 436-437. Please note that a printed transcription is available in Klett, Guy S., ed. Minutes of the Presbyterian Church in America 1706-1788 (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Historical Society, 1976), pp. 627, 629) (shelved in the Presbyterian Historical Society reading room). Please note: in the manuscript version of this document, some instances of the letter "s" are formed like "f".
The Synod of New York and Philadelphia was the national body of Presbyterians at the time. The manuscript minutes record the first introduction of an overture—an introduction to an issue that requires further thought or action—to abolish slavery on May 26, 1787. The minutes then show how the synod amended the overture two days later, on May 28. The idea of the church’s supporting abolition had been brought before the synod earlier, but discussion of this issue was postponed throughout the Revolutionary War and the first few years of the new republic. The Committee of Overtures referred to in the document was convened specifically in order to discuss the roles and responsibilities of the Presbyterian church as related to the institution of slavery.
1. Who wrote this document, and when was it written? Is it a reliable source?
2. Just at the end of page 433 and at the start of page 434, the Committee of Overtures brought up the issue of slavery and the suggestion that the synod should advocate for abolition. What exactly was the committee’s recommendation? How did they introduce their recommendation (end of page 433)?
3. On May 28,1787, the Synod of New York and Philadelphia again considered the issue of slavery as brought up the by Overtures Committee two days earlier (page 436). How is the May 28th statement different from the May 26th statement? What is the Synod’s stance on the issue of slavery? What recommendations do they make with regard to the institution?
4. On page 437, the Synod recommends that its members use “the most prudent measures consistent with the interests & the state of Civil society in the countries where they live.” What do you think those measures might be? Why does the synod not just state what measures their members should take to work toward abolition?